Museum of Islay Life - Life on Islay in the early 1900s
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Museum of Islay Life Port Charlotte

Museum of Islay Life Port Charlotte

The Museum of Islay Life is managed by the Islay Museums Trust and has as its principal aim the conservation and display of items illustrative of life in Islay, from prehistoric to recent times. The Trust was formed in 1976 by the Islay Historic Works Group and the Natural History and Antiquarian Society of Islay. A Management Committee, of Trustees and other interested islanders, set about finding a suitable building and bringing together items to put in it. The Museum building is the former Free Church in Port Charlotte. It had ceased to be used as a place of worship in 1929 and had become a delapidated ruin. However, it was purchased for a nominal sum and restored with the aid of grants, and the Museum opened its doors to the public in 1977.

Since then, the Museum, with the generous help of islanders donating material of all kinds, has built up a main collection of over 2700 objects as diverse as stone implements used in the Mesolithic era, Victorian and Edwardian items from the Laird's house, farming implements, everything necessary for an illicit still, relics from shipping disasters, over 1200 books, very substantial paper archives, including much unique material, and nearly 5000 photographs, some dating back more than 100 years.

Landmarks in the subsequent development of the Museum have included the building of a special shelter to house carved stones and the construction inside the Museum of a gallery, which now holds the office and items from the collection not currently being displayed. In 1998, the Museum achieved full registration with the Museums and Galleries Commission which means that the highest standards of care and display have been achieved and are now maintained. Registration also brings with it access to grants and conservation advice from the Scottish Museums Council.

In 1980, the Museum was awarded the prestigious Museum of the Year Award, and received a further Special Award in 1985. In 1998, it received a share of the Kintore Conservation Award.


In 2003, the Museum celebrated its 25th birthday with the publication of 'An Islay Miscellany', a collection of tales, poems, letters and other material drawn from the wealth of archives held in the Museum.

In winters 2005-6 and 2006-7, the committee carried out a major reorganisation of some of the displays, with several new stands allowing us to show off more of our collection to good effect. We have also relabelled most of the exhibits. Large boards placed around the walls hold mounted enlargements of some of the very many old photographs of Islay, its buildings, transport, people, etc., which we have not hitherto been able to show to the public properly.

Publications of the Museum of Islay Life
The Museum publishes a number of books and pamphlets as listed below. For full details please click here.

The Isle of Islay - Looking Back with Bobby Hodkinson (2nd revised edition)
An Islay Miscellany

Guide to Places of Interest on Islay. By C.Gordon Booth
Place Names in Islay. By Katie Ferguson and Margot Perrons
The Old Parish Church, Kildalton, Islay. By Domhnall MacEacharna
40 Star Objects By The Museum of Islay Life

Contact Information
The Museum is run by a small Management Committee of Islay residents. Annual Membership is 5.00, giving free entry to the Museum.

Write for details of membership and publications to:
The Museum of Islay Life, Port Charlotte, Isle of Islay, PA48 7UA.
Phone/fax: 01496-850358
Or use the feedback form

SCRANThe website of the Scottish Cultural Resources Network which is an online learning resource with images, movies and sounds gathered from museums (including the Museum of Islay Life), galleries, archives and the media.
IslayInfo A very informative website about Islay where you can learn about the island, its history, distilleries, accommodation, activities, and much else. The website owner, Ron Steenvoorden, also writes an Islay Weblog updated almost daily. We are pleased to acknowledge as a sponsor of the Museum.

Opening Hours 2018
10.30 am to 4.30 pm.
30 March to 30 April:- Monday to Friday.
1 May to 30 September:- every day (Sunday 1 pm to 4.30 pm).
1 to 31 October:- Monday to Friday.
Entrance Fee
- Adult 4.00
- Concession 3.00
- Child 1.00
- Family 8.00 (for 2 adults and 2 or more children)

Bowmore early 1900s

Port Ellen Pier Road

Lagavulin Distillery

Mending the Lobster Creels

Unloading Coal
Bowmore Pier